Awol soldier jailed for nine months

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A soldier who went absent without leave (awol) rather than serve a second tour in Afghanistan was jailed for nine months today.

Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, who was also reduced to the ranks, was sentenced at a military court in Colchester, Essex, after admitting the awol charge.

The court martial hearing was told that Glenton, who later campaigned against the conflict, was discovered to be absent on June 11, 2007, when he was due to return to Dalton Barracks in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

He was absent for 737 days before handing himself in, prosecutor Group Captain Tim Backer said.

He said that the 27-year-old had performed a seven-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2006 serving with the Royal Logistic Corps.

When Glenton returned he was ordered to go back to the conflict zone after nine months even though military guidelines suggest soldiers should not be deployed again within 18 months.

Mitigating, Nick Wrack, told the court that when Glenton raised concerns about going back he suffered bullying.

He said Glenton had suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after his first stint in the war zone.

"When he first raised with his staff sergeant his reluctance to be deployed again, instead of being dealt with in a sensible way it resulted in the sergeant at the time bullying and intimidating Lance Corporal Glenton," said Mr Wrack.

"He was called a coward and a malingerer.

"When this information was brought to his commanding officer, the sergeant was spoken to, but this reinforced the bullying."

Glenton, who joined the army in 2004, returned to barracks on June 16, 2009, when he was charged.

During his two years and six days awol he went to south east Asia and Australia.

Consultant psychiatrist Lars Davidsson told the court that Glenton may have reacted the way he did because of PTSD.

"He told me that when he was deployed in 2006 he felt guilty and useless.

"He told me of how he supplied coffins for the dead servicemen. He had dreams of coffins being lined up.

"When he got back he was drinking heavily and having sleeping problems. Sometimes he would have bad dreams and wake up screaming.

"He was agitated when he heard any loud bangs."

When the troops had finished their tour they stopped in Cyprus for 'decompression'.

Mr Wrack said the men had been told "don't go out and drink too much and beat up your wives".

He said that Glenton, who served with the 4 Logistic Support Regiment, joined the army with a "wave of enthusiasm".

Mr Wrack said: "He was told that the troops' presence in Afghanistan would improve the country, that democracy would be bought and that the position of women would improve. This motivated him to go.

"His experience and reality conflicted with what he had been told.

"More and more he began to see that the conflict in Afghanistan was wrong. He spoke out about it, perhaps in a bold fashion.

"He questioned the morality and legality of the war, and spoke publicly about it when he returned."

Glenton, from York, took part in an anti-war protest in October last year.

Glenton was told by the military panel that his offence was so serious he must face a custodial sentence.

Judge Advocate Emma Peters told him he had left his comrades under-manned at a crucial time before deployment.

She said he had sought help for his psychological problems but had not waited for long enough to get them sorted out.

"Rather than letting the system help you, you decided to go absent," she said.

Glenton, who was born in Norwich, was told he will serve two- thirds of his sentence at a military corrective training centre.

The 29 days he had already spent in custody will be taken into account.

When Glenton, who is now a private, left court accompanied by police officers, he held one fist in the air.

His mother, Sue Glenton, said: "The MoD have let us down, they have let Joe down, they have let his comrades down, and they should hang their heads in shame."

His legal representative, John Tipple, from Lynn Associates, said they planned to launch an appeal.

"What we have seen here today is the Ministry of Defence and the Government refusing to take account of the fact that thousands of soldiers are suffering from PTSD," he said.

"It is quite obvious that the judge decided that Joe Glenton should pay for showing courage and speaking out to the media against an illegal war.

"It was his responsibility to hand out weapons that were killing innocent civilians, and he spoke against that.

"Today Gordon Brown answers questions to his mates at the Chilcot Inquiry, he doesn't have any consequence, yet Joe Glenton has now been jailed for nine months.

"It is an outrage. We will be appealing."

A spokesman for the Stop The War Coalition said: "Joe Glenton is not the person who should be facing a jail sentence. It should be the politicians who have led us into disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fact that they are not brings shame to justice in this country."